Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Non-gasoline tax initiatives to fund transportation projects

I have been intending to write a long piece on the federal highway trust fund issue and various initiatives at the state level ("Road taxes are rising, even in tax-averse states," Associated Press ), and the lack of influence the various activities at the state level are having on the issuespace for the federal legislation.  Since Congress has just passed interim legislation extending funding for about 10 months ("Senate Passes $8.1 Billion Measure to Replenish Highway, Bridge Repair Fund," Wall Street Journal), I can wait.

We can hope, after the election, that the various state efforts could bubble up with some influence on federal action.

That being said, there are many "bads" about the various initiatives.  For example, I have complained that the level of funding for biking infrastructure Pennsylvania's Act 89 doesn't even register as a rounding error on the $2.5 billion five-year plan.

OTOH, Act 89 is helping to fund local transit systems which have been crushed ever since the 2008 Depression/Recession, especially Pittsburgh, and the more recent introducction of a "Super Bus Stop" and a bus shuttle service to large employer sites in suburban Robinson ("Robinson welcomes 'super shelters' for  bus riders " and "Act 89 funds rescue 2 transit services," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

Image from JimmyCSays blog (a nice entry on the tax and opposition because of the failure to raise the gasoline tax, which in Missouri is one of the lowest in the country).

Today there is a vote in Missouri on raising the sales tax to fund transportation.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ("Sales tax is least rational solution to highway funding") and others haven't been supportive because they assert that the Governor and Legislature have focused on the sales tax rather than the gas tax as a result of hard core lobbying by the trucking industry.

Images from the Keep Smart Rolling Facebook page.

Also today there is a vote in Suburban Detroit--Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties--to increase the amount of property tax funding dedicated to the SMART bus system ("Endorsement: Voting for SMART millage is the smart move," Detroit Free Press).  An earlier article in March had incredibly disturbing comments from anti-transit folks who take the subsidy of driving for granted.

WRT the Detroit-area vote, I do wonder a bit about the need to create a regional government comparable to Portland's or to some extent, Minneapolis', to amalgamate funding and operations for regional cultural assets (the Detroit Zoo and Detroit Institute of Arts get a regional tax, the Huron Clinton Metrpolitan Parks Authority has received such a millage for many decades, and the city and suburban bus systems, which ought to be merged).

This fall there will be many similar votes around the country, in Pinellas County, Florida, Seattle, and Clayton County, Georgia, among others.

The Seattle vote is a follow-on to an earlier unsuccessful vote this year for all of King County, Washington, to fund the local bus system.  (Fixed rail transit by Sound Transit is funded through a different system.)

The vote passed in Seattle but failed in the County, so the City of Seattle is putting forward a tax vote to preserve the city's bus service, although it does call for an increase in the car registration fee, and even though such a funding increase has been authorized in the State of Washington for a number of years, not one proposal to increase registration fees for transportation purposes has been passed.

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At 6:20 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

I'd agree that a huge part of the problem is that a decent system for building out a road system (gas tax) has 50 years later become a way to fund a world class road logistics system -- and a third world private transport system.

Using gas tax money for transit just is compounding the problem. After all the much cited congestion isn't huge deal for 85% of road users -- on average it is maybe 10 minutes a day -- but an enormous problem for trucking.

At 9:02 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

One of the simplest solutions for a lot of truck congestion is shifting driving to the overnight hours, when automobile traffic is light.

That would suck for truck drivers though.

At 9:11 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

With overtime, that wouldn't reduce the costs for the logistics industry.

Looking at a specific truck tax for DC would make sense --- the damage they do to the roads is tremendous. hard to enforce, though.

But $1000 for a truck to be operated in DC sounds about right....

At 10:06 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

There are certain additional taxes, I don't know how they work though. E.g., the concrete trucks have to be licensed to operate in DC.

Tour buses have to pay a fee to enter and operate in the city.

But wrt your point about costs being equal, that's true to a point, but it might be cheaper all told, given the ability to move with very limited congestion.

I imagine they could get additional trips accomplished per shift, which would make the add'l costs worthwhile.


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